Giovanni Raboni

Poet-critic in the tradition of Eliot and Pound who changed the idiom of Italian poetry

Giovanni Raboni, poet, critic and translator: born Milan, Italy 22 January 1932; married (one son, two daughters); died Parma, Italy 16 September 2004.


Giovanni Raboni was one of the most dynamic poets of the generation after Eugenio Montale.

Giovanni Raboni, poet, critic and translator: born Milan, Italy 22 January 1932; married (one son, two daughters); died Parma, Italy 16 September 2004.

Giovanni Raboni was one of the most dynamic poets of the generation after Eugenio Montale.

He was born in Milan in 1932. He studied law and practised it for some time before dedicating himself to literature and journalism. He was equally well-known as a literary, theatre and film critic and as a translator. In the last few years he had been working for the Corriere della sera, writing articles and reviews. He translated Baudelaire, Apollinaire and Proust. During the 1970s he was editor of the publishing firm Guanda, specializing in publishing modern English, American or French poets.

As a critic he not only wrote first- rate and influential criticism on contemporary Italian and French writers, as well as on Ezra Pound, but, like Pound himself, he discovered new poets and encouraged them in their work. Among his books of criticism may be mentioned Poesia degli anni Sessanta ("Poetry of the Sixties", 1976) and Quaderno in prosa ("Prose Notebook", 1981). Among his works of poetry there are Il catalogo è questo ("This is the Catalogue", 1961); L'insalubrità dell'aria ("The Unhealthiness of Air", 1963); Le case della Vetra ("The Houses of the Vetra", 1966); Economia della paura ("The Economy of Fear", 1970); Cadenza d'inganno ("Deceptive Cadence", 1975); Il più freddo anno di grazia ("The Coldest Year of Grace", 1977); Nel grave sogno ("In a Serious Dream", 1982); Quare tristis ("Why Art Thou Sad", 1998); Versi guerrieri e amorosi ("War and Love Poems", 1990); Ogni terzo pensiero ("Every Third Thought", 1993); and Barlumi di storia ("Glimmers of History", 2002); as well as theatrical works in verse, such as Rappresentazione della Croce ("Representations of the Cross", 2000) and Alcesti, o, La recita dell'esilio ("Alcestis, or, The Performance of Exile", 2002). A selection of his poems was published in English translation in America in 1985 under the title The Coldest Year of Grace. I myself had the honour of knowing Raboni personally and translating some of his poems in Contemporary Italian Verse for London Magazine Editions in 1968.

In one of his poems, "For Some Years I Have Been Trying to Get Old", he refers to himself as one "who took / such care in eating . . . who sniffed air / like a spice or as a drug dog the drug, / who sacrificed every other joy to a name / or to the sound of a name".

At my invitation, Raboni contributed an article on Ezra Pound's humanism to Ezra Pound Centenary, a book of essays published in 1990 in which, among other things, he affirmed:

The debt to Pound - mine and, I believe, that of many poets of my generation - cannot be paid, can never be paid. Precisely because he couldn't be a master, he was the only master possible, the only one we would have wished to have.

Raboni's own modernity, like that of Mario Luzi, is a happy amalgam between, to use T.S. Eliot's phrase, tradition and individual talent and goes beyond what is purely experimental linguistically and stylistically.

Both the language and the style of Raboni's poetry mark him out not merely as a post-hermetic, but decisively an anti-hermetic poet. More in line with the Montalian rather than the Ungarettian tradition, with his social and ethical as well as existential preoccupations, Raboni's poetry embodies such prose qualities as irony and understatement, clarity and concreteness of detail in its humdrum bareness - together with an undercurrent of well-controlled pathos by virtue of which he forges almost a new idiom in Italian poetry.

Being a contemporary of such post-war poets as Vittorio Sereni and Franco Fortini as well as having been influenced by poets like W.H. Auden, Pound and Eliot, on all of whom he wrote significant critical essays, Raboni studs his poetry with such prosaic details and images as that of the vase going "gradually to pieces, / rustling like a bran / gliding into the hands of the mouse / in the pantry" or perishing "in a thin crevice / as in a crazy water-clock" ("The Bad Year"); or the image of the dead Lombard people "buried like heaps of roots / in a soaked earth".

A certain reticence and aristocratic inwardness and detachment characterise the way Raboni observes and writes about people and objects, enabling him to achieve an impersonality like Eliot's; and yet, he tells us, echoing Pound, "it's time to speak out / as it was once time to remain silent / with everyone (including friends), / careful not to take / the same route, ever".

Like Montale before him, Raboni combined the professions of journalism and poetry, frequently crossing the boundary between one and the other and enriching his poetry, not so much through "incidents in the development of the soul", but through everyday common, political amd cultural events and experiences.

Raboni was born in Milan and lived most of his life there: there is something characteristically Milanese about him, representing the Lombard tradition of poetry, as in the case of poets like Vittorio Sereni, Luciano Erba, Giancarlo Majorino and Franco Buffoni.

As a critic Raboni, like other poet-critics before him, Montale himself, Sergio Solmi and Mario Luzi, wrote essays about 20th-century poets such as Sandro Penna, Mario Luzi, Andrea Zanzotto from the point of view of a contemporary poet as well as a contemporary critic, so that all his critical assessments of those poets, together with those of Sergio Solmi (as in Scrittori negli anni - "Writers through the Years", 1963), constitute an important part of the critical history of 20th-century Italian poetry.

G. Singh

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices